Johnson's signing was questioned, but how tough a decision was it to reward a rising quarterback with a contract that didn't even make him one of the league's 10-highest-paid signal-callers? "It was never a question to us," Vikings president Roger Headrick said last week. Nevertheless, Johnson heard the naysayers, particularly after the Vikings' 40-15 NFC wild-card loss to the Cowboys only nine days after he signed his deal. He set out this year to prove he is worth every cent.
"I worked as hard as I've ever worked in the off-season," Johnson said last Saturday. "I have a personal trainer and sports psychologist from Chile whom I met at Florida State, and he comes to Tallahassee for three months every off-season to work with me. I know Jerry Rice has an incredible workout, but no quarterback works out like I do. We have two-a-day workouts where I drop back in the sand, work with medicine balls and do a bunch of gymnastics exercises. We work a lot on confidence and visualizing success. Since I got back up to Minnesota full time [in May], through minicamp and training camp and the start of this season, I've been on fire. This offense is just made for me."
With the NFC's best line north of Dallas and tremendous skill players in running back Robert Smith and wideout Cris Carter, the Vikings aren't shy about saying this is their best team in coach Dennis Green's six seasons. It probably wouldn't be if they hadn't re-signed Johnson.
Packers' Bid to Sell More Shares Meeting Resistance
The league office should rule by the end of this month on the Packers' request to sell nonvoting shares to the public, as the team did in 1950 to stay afloat. Approval may be difficult to get, though, because other teams fear the Pack would devote a chunk of the money to signing bonuses, and that would be viewed as an unfair advantage.
The Packers say they would use a majority of the proceeds—as much as $50 million—as seed money for a new stadium, which would be built around 2015. The Pack doesn't expect the state to foot the entire bill for the project. "The Brewers had to contribute about $90 million for their new stadium," says Packers president Bob Harlan, "and we need to start socking money away for the day when we have to replace Lambeau Field."
Green Bay does have about $20 million in reserve to try to re-sign key players who are eligible to become free agents after this season, including strong safety LeRoy Butler, cornerback Doug Evans, guard Aaron Taylor and defensive end Gabe Wilkins.
Stat of the Week
In each of their past two games, against the Jets and the Chiefs, the Bills have allowed a kickoff to be returned for a touchdown. That matches the number of kickoffs Buffalo opponents returned for scores from 1987 through '96.